Bringing your own water
This can be tricky even for an overnight. Everyone has different water consumption needs and it's good to know yours ahead of time. Next time you go for a long ride pay close attention to how much you are drinking. This will help you plan for trips involving more than one day.
Keeping Hydrated in cooler weather while riding might have you going through 3 or so liters a day. On a hot day you could go through as much as 6 liters! That's 13.2lbs (6kgs)!
The most important and often overlooked detail when sourcing water is if it will actually be there when you arrive. Seasons have a huge impact on water availability in streams and springs as well as other factors. Just because there has been water at a site all year long for 20 years doesn't always mean it will be there on your next trip. Check online and with the ranger station if possible for info on water availability.
Method 1: Filter
I personally really like the versatility of an inline water filter. An inline water filter will allow you to filter from one vessel to another. In this configuration you will generally have a "dirty" and "clean" bottle or water bladder. This will help prevent cross contamination of unfiltered water into your drinking water.
Here is me filtering some pretty nasty water from the "dirty" water bag to my "clean" smart water bottle. Sorry for the blur. This water was a pain to procure.
You can also use tubing to attach the filter inline with a hydration bladder which is pretty darn cool:
When choosing a water filter one of the main things you will want to look for is the filters micron size. I prefer to see a 0.1 micron fiber membrane. This size will be able to protect you against 99.99% of harmful bacteria such as Giardia, E. coli, protozoan cysts, Cryptosporidium and other such nasty things. Do keep in mind that filters may not protect you against viruses. You can use a filter along with chemical treatment if you are unsure about virus risk of your water source. Filters like these have a tendency to cog causing a heavy reduction in water flow. Each manufacturer has a recommended method for "back-flushing" the filter to clear debris causing the cog.
Method 2: Chemical treatment
This method can save weight and space on your bike! There are a few options for chemical purification and each have pros and cons.
Two part drops:
Two part drops leave little chemical taste in the water but need to be measured carefully and wait times followed to properly treat a given volume of water. They can also leak if you do not make sure to secure the caps all the way after use. Make sure to follow manufacturers instructions carefully!
Water Purification Tablets:
Water purification tablets are one of the most convenient water disinfection methods but at a cost. The clean water they treat tastes a bit chemically and is not the most enjoyable thing to chug out of your water bottles while riding. The active ingredient in these tablets is iodine which is reactive to some materials. That means they need to be stored in the glass container they come in. I tend to use these as a back up to another purification method.
Method 3: UV light water purification
Time for the space age stuff! This is probably the coolest way to make backcountry water safe to drink. Compact and reduces waste because there is no filter to get cogged and replaced or single use bottles involved.
You do have to directly contact the water with the light pen so keeping it clean is a must. Also because it runs off electrical power, battery levels and electronic failure is something to keep in mind. A back up purification option with this method is a good idea.
There are of course other methods of making water safe to drink such as boiling but I feel the methods mentioned above are your best options.
Party on and feel free to contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I am not a medical or science professional. Please reference your local health department for guidelines on safe water purification and consumption and follow all manufacturers instructions. For us here in the US we use CDC guidelines as a reference for safe water sourcing and treatment in the backcountry.